Yesterday, DeMaurice Smith (executive director of the NFLPA) and president J.C. Tretter conducted a NFL Players Association Conference Call by Zoom with members of the Professional Football Writers Association. The call lasted nearly 90 minutes. Questions were asked to find out how the NFLPA felt about the NFL’s stance on pandemic protocols for the upcoming 2020 NFL season.
NFL Players Association Conference Call July 17th 2020 Concerning COVID-19
Negative Trends for the NFL as COVID-19 Trends Positive
There is no doubt the NFL is at a critical junction at the moment when training camp is close to starting. As the league makes decisions on how to handle the season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the next four to six weeks may have effects on the league for a long time. Furthermore, the leadership for the NFLPA is striving to get a balance of playing football and keeping the players safe. This is a fine line to walk. Back in March, the task force was put in place to prepare for this very moment. However, plenty of things have changed. The challenges ahead are undoubtedly new. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith echoed these sentiments on the call.
“I’m sure back in March, April, May when J.C. and I put that task force together there were always a few implicit assumptions,” Smith said. “I’m not sure there was any more implicit assumptions that we all thought back then that things would trend more in a positive direction. The reality is in a lot of states right now, that trend has been in an opposite direction. A couple weeks ago we started to raise alarms about spikes in a number of jurisdictions. And our job as a union is to hold the league accountable.”
Players Concerned About Safety Share Concern on NFL Players Association Conference Call
In two cities, Houston and Miami, doctors and the league are looking at pushing back the start date for rookies reporting. The Denver Broncos have already decided to push back the date a couple of days. Surely, there are more teams concerned about coming back too early. New NFLPA president J.C. Tretter just took over the reigns a few months ago is more than capable to lead the union into un-chartered territory. Tretter holds a labor relations degree from Cornell University and brings plenty of knowledge to relay about future negotiations.
“Our position was we have players, who have spoken with our membership, who are nervous about flying from a relatively safe location directly into a hot spot with their families, with their kids, with their wives. And that’s a major concern with stuff that’s going on in Houston as well, Miami.”
Andrew Whitworth’s Scare
The concern surrounding COVID-19 infections is real. No one else knows better than offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth of the Los Angeles Rams. “We had a family member that simply went to lunch with a friend and, innocent as it can be, and a couple of days later we’re traveling all together and she started to not feel well and ended up deciding to go and get a test,” Whitworth said. “Next thing you know she had it. A couple of days later, my wife and I had it. A couple days after that, our kids had it.”
Whitworth’s father-in-law contracted the virus too and had to remain in the hospital for five days before release. He’s one of the lucky ones.
Still, the questions of how the NFL communicates to the NFLPA remains a constant flowing of new information on a daily basis. There are sure to be setbacks and continuous dialogue between the two sides as the season comes to a beginning. The key to a successful chance for a season depends on how quickly the league can adapt to scientific data. The resources are there to fight this in an expedient fashion. In the end both sides eventually need to feel comfortable about moving forward into a new future for the NFL. Leadership will be tested and the league can look back on this moment as a defining point in history.